Governor Martyn Roper says Cayman’s hands remain tied when it comes to assisting many unemployed foreign workers, especially Indian nationals who are seeking a route back to their home country.
He suggested that foreign governments may have to step into assist.
“I think what would really help at some point with some of the large groups of foreign workers here is if their governments were able to arrange charter flights and if we could link up charter flights from, say, India or the Philippines in London,” he said on Friday as he addressed the issue of repatriation flights at the daily COVID-19 briefing.
Roper was responding to queries about UK visa waivers for foreign nationals, in particular, those from India, who may need to transit via London to get home.
“We would be able to work through the transit-visa issues, but that’s a really complex and difficult logistical issue and, of course, at the moment India’s borders are closed; no Indians can go back to India, so you know our hands are tied on that at the moment,” Roper said.
The governor assured that government understands that the issue is a big concern for many, but he said there is not much that can be done about the visa waivers or connecting flights.
“The airlines have to be certain that people have onward booking. We’re speaking to the UK, we can try and get flexibility, but until people can show they have onward bookings and tickets to go somewhere else from London, and then there’s not a lot the UK can do, and the airlines as well. So, it just remains very challenging and we’ll have to look at this sort of case by case,” he added.
According to Customs and Border Control, the highest number of overstayers on island hail from Jamaica, Philippines, United States, Honduras, United Kingdom, India and Canada.
A new repatriation flight to Miami has been confirmed, Roper said, and a charter flight to Cancun, Mexico, has been arranged for next week following discussions with the Mexican government.
He advised Mexicans who wish to return home to email [email protected] to secure a seat.
Last week, the Jamaican government announced that it will allow controlled re-entry of nationals.
Roper said discussions with Jamaican government for the repatriation of its citizens who are resident in Cayman are continuing.
“The discussions are under way but as we’ve emphasised regularly this is quite challenging in a number of different areas… and as soon as we’ve got something firm to report, we will,” the governor added.
The next British Airways flight is set to arrive on Tuesday and passengers heading out on the return leg will be allowed two 23kg hold luggage.
Roper said the flight will being bringing additional supplies for Cayman to execute its expanded testing regime.
“We’re now very confident that we do have sufficient swabs and extraction kits either already here or coming very soon to be able to really step up this massively important testing programme,” he said.